Should Aston Villa rekindle their interest in January transfer target Christian Santos?

General view of Paper planes on the pitch thrown by Aston Villa fans in protest - Villa Park

The 28-year-old NEC Nijmegen forward admitted this week that he is eyeing a move to England or Spain ahead of his contract expiring at the end of the month.

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As incoming Aston Villa manager Roberto Di Matteo prepares to overhaul the under-performing squad he inherited this summer, finding a new forward will be one of his top priorities.

Reports have already named Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford and Crystal Palace’s Dwight Gayle as possible targets [h/t Express and Star], but another option for the Italian to consider is NEC Nijmegen attacker Christian Santos.

The 28-year-old Venezuelan, who is currently on international duty at the Copa America Centenario in the USA, was heavily linked with Villa during the January transfer window [h/t De Gelderlander], and while a move ultimately failed to materialise, he is now set to begin searching for a new club at the end of this month when his contract expires.

MLS side Philadelphia Union have been mentioned as a possible suitor of late, but the six-time capped forward has continued to reiterate that either England or Spain would be his preferred destination.

Speaking on Thursday after being an unused substitute for Venezuela’s shock 1-0 win over Uruguay in Philadelphia – a result which secured his side a place in the Copa America’s last eight, Santos told Philly Voice: “I think in the moment my focus is on Europe, the Spanish league or in England.

“There are some clubs we are talking with, that my agent is talking with. So yeah, we will see. I hope that really soon I will have an answer.”

While a relative late bloomer in footballing terms, the supposed demand for Santos’ signature should not come as a big surprise considering his recent goalscoring exploits in the Eredivisie.

The pacey forward, who moved from his native Venezuela to Germany at the age of five before joining Arminia Bielefeld’s academy, netted 16 times in 30 league games last season and is just as comfortable playing out wide or through the middle.

He only has one season of top-flight experience after struggling with injuries earlier in his career, but as a free transfer for a Championship side, there is certainly reason to believe that Di Matteo would be wise to rekindle Villa’s interest in him.

The club are widely expected to lose Jordan Ayew this summer after the Ghana international stood out as one of their few bright spots last term, while neither the under-fire Gabby Agbonlahor nor the injury-prone Libor Kozak can be relied on to produce in front of goal if they stay in B6.

Rudy Gestede has previously shown he can hit the back of the net in the second tier, netting 20 goals in 37 games with Blackburn Rovers during the 2014-15 campaign, but the claret and blues will undoubtedly need more firepower if they hope to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

Jordan Ayew celebrates with Rudy Gestede (L) and Idrissa Gueye (R) after scoring the second goal for Aston Villa

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